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Death in the Victorian Family

Pat Jalland

Published in print November 1996 | ISBN: 9780198201885
Published online October 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191675058 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198201885.001.0001
Death in the Victorian Family

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This book explores family experiences of dying, death, grieving, and mourning between 1830 and 1920. Victorian letters and diaries reveal a deep preoccupation with death because of a shorter life expectancy, a high death rate for infants and children, and a dominant Christian culture. Using the private correspondence, diaries, and death memorials of fifty-five middle and upper-class British families, the book shows us how dying, death, and grieving were experienced by Victorian families and how the manner and rituals of death and mourning varied with age, gender, disease, religious belief, family size and class. It examines deathbed scenes, good and bad deaths, funerals and cremations, widowhood, and the roles of religion and medicine. Chapters on the deaths of children and old people demonstrate the importance of the stages of the life-cycle, as well as the failure of many actual deathbeds to achieve the Christian ideal of the good death. The consolations of Christian faith and private memory, and the transformation in the ideas and beliefs about heaven, hell, and immortality are analysed. The rise and decline of Evangelicalism, the influence of unbelief and secularism, falling mortality, and the trauma of the Great War are all key motors of change in this period. This study of death and bereavement in the past helps us to understand the present, especially in the context of the modern tendency to avoid the subject of dying, and to minimize the public expression of grief. In their practical and compassionate treatment of death, the Victorians have much to teach us today.

Keywords: family experiences; death; Victorian; preoccupation; shorter life expectancy; Christian

Book.  476 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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Table of Contents

Introduction in Death in the Victorian Family

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Bad Deaths, Sudden Deaths, and Suicides in Death in the Victorian Family

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Death and the Victorian Doctors in Death in the Victorian Family

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Nurses, Consultants, and Terminal Prognoses in Death in the Victorian Family

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Death in Old Age in Death in the Victorian Family

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Funeral Reform and the Cremation Debate in Death in the Victorian Family

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